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Thursday, 21 December 2006

Europe By Chance: Crossing the continent despite myself - Page 4

Written by Gary Boas
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I have a fairly haphazard approach to traveling: I like to drop myself in the middle of some locale with no plan as to what I'm going to do – and occasionally no viable way of getting out – just to see what happens. I tell myself that this is a good way to test my mettle. If I can make it out of some of these scrapes alive, the argument goes, then I must be a tough one indeed. The truth is, I’m probably just a bit lazy and can’t be bothered with stuff like arranging accommodations before I arrive in a place, or finding transport more than a day or two in advance.

Monday, June 19, 5pm
The balcony off my room in the Hotel San Lorenzo; Bormio, Italy

In my apartment I have a framed photo of David and me in full winter gear in a snow-covered notch on a mountain. When people ask about the photo I explain that it's from the time David tried to kill me - that is, the time he took me on a winter camping trip in the Rockies. I don't think I've ever been as cold and miserable as I was in that photo.

Now I have a photo – a self-portrait actually – of me standing at the top of a mountain pass in the Italian Alps, again not looking very happy. I seem to have blocked the name of the pass from my memory. This isn't surprising, as climbing it (in a rented minivan) was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.


Bormio, a medieval market town in the north of Italy, is largely isolated by the Alps. One of the only ways to access the town is to climb mountain passes with steep, narrow, winding roads – often only one lane, so encountering oncoming traffic can be particularly challenging. Seen here is the author at the top of one of these, convinced that his brother tried to kill him on the ascent.


David would describe it differently, I'm sure. He would probably use words like ‘exciting’ and ‘challenging.’ From my perspective (that of the guy in the passenger seat, peering over the edge of the narrow, winding road with only a blowout between me and a horrible, fiery death at the bottom of the pass – more than a mile below, apparently) it was simply ‘scary.’ While I'm sure he was actually driving very cautiously, in my mind he was recklessly careering around the steep, hairpin curves, and laughing maniacally as I tearfully begged him to slow down.

In the end it was worth it. On the other side of the pass lay Bormio, yet another beautiful Italian village (after Florence we spent a long weekend in my sister-in-law’s hometown of Cortona). We plan to stay in Bormio for several days – at this very nice hotel not too far from the main square. Today, our first full day in the area, David and the others drove to another mountain pass for a hike. I remained here, adhering to the very strict schedule I had set for myself: sit on balcony and read, go to cafe for big cup of cappuccino, sit on balcony and read some more, take a long walk, and so on. Somewhere in this very busy day I managed to shave.

©Gary Boas

(Page 4 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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